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Lots of happy people as Palantir and Asana spike on first day of trading

The markets are closed and the verdicts are in: investors liked what they saw in Palantir and Asana .

The two companies, which debuted this morning in dual (and duel) direct listings, continued to prove that enterprise tech companies without the brand recognition of Spotify (which conducted its own direct listing back in 2018) can make direct listings work. So far, the evidence is decent that the mechanism isn’t throwing off investors.

Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Asana closed its first trading day at $28.80 a share — a gain of 37% against its reference price of $21 a share. The company’s first trade was at $27. Meanwhile, Palantir closed the day at $9.73, a gain of 34% against its reference price of $7.25. Its first trade was at $10. Asana is valued at about $4.3 billion at close, while Palantir reached $24.8 billion, based on its fully diluted share count, including recent securities sold.

As an aside, my Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas and I did an “Equity Shot” talking more about these early numbers. Tune in if you want to hear our discussion and analysis:

That done, with big bold numbers on the board, there were a number of winners.

First and foremost, Founders Fund, which is the only major investor shared between the two companies, has a lot of capital incoming. The firm owns 5.8% of Asana and approximately 6.6% of Palantir, netting it somewhere around $1.8 billion given today’s valuations (that’s definitely back-of-the-envelope math mind you).

Meanwhile, Benchmark owns 9.3% of Asana, and a number of other investors including Japanese insurer SOMPO, Disruptive Technology Solutions, UBS, and 8VC own significant stakes in Palantir.

The other winners are the founders of these companies. Dustin Moskovitz retains a 36% stake in Asana, while his cofounder Justin Rosenstein holds a 16.1% stake. Over at Palantir, the trio of founders of Alex Karp, Stephen Cohen, and Peter Thiel now have liquid billions at their collective disposal.

Asana founders Justin Rosenstein and Dustin Moskovitz. Photo via Asana

Of course, employees will be happy to get liquidity as well. Asana does not have a lockup period, and so its employees and insiders are free to trade. Palantir coupled a direct listing with a lockup, and so only about 28% of the company’s shares are eligible for sale today. The remainder will be authorized to be sold over the next year.

In an interview with Moskovitz shortly after the markets closed today, he said that “it’s been an exciting morning, but ultimately it’s just one step in a much longer journey towards fulfilling our mission” (you can read more of our interview with Moskovitz on Extra Crunch).

While it’s just one trading day, it was a positive one for both companies, and that provides even more evidence that the classic IPO now has stiff competition from direct listings and other alternative methods like SPACs.

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Dustin Moskovitz discusses Asana’s first trading day

‘Ultimately it’s just one step in a much longer journey towards fulfilling our mission’

It’s a big day for Asana, the work management tool that debuted on the NYSE this morning in a direct listing. Founded back in 2009 by Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, the company has assiduously grown over the years, taking in about $213 million in venture capital the past decade and reaching almost $100 million in subscription revenue for the first six months of 2020.

TechCrunch sat down this afternoon with CEO Moskovitz and Asana’s head of product Alex Hood at the tail end of the company’s first trading day to talk about its early success, its future and how it feels to go public in a direct listing.

This Q&A has been edited and condensed for clarity.

TechCrunch: Tell me how you’re feeling today — it’s been 10, 11 years since the company’s founding, what are your emotions on this first day?

Dustin Moskovitz: It’s been an exciting morning, but ultimately it’s just one step in a much longer journey towards fulfilling our mission and so, you know, we’re definitely pausing to celebrate but also looking ahead to what comes next because there’s going to be a lot more stuff to come after this.

What’s next?

Alex Hood: We really just feel like we’re getting started. The way that a billion and a quarter information workers work together really hasn’t changed all that much in the last 25 years — it’s really kind of based on the Microsoft Office suite form factor. We think that there’s a collaboration piece that really helps teams know who’s doing what by when and reduce the back and forth required to get work done.

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Asana up 39% and Palantir still holding as both direct listings hit the public markets

Two direct listings in one day. Lots to talk about.

Asana started trading just a bit after noon Eastern today, quickly zooming to roughly $29 a share in early trading this afternoon. We are still waiting for the first trades of Palantir to hit the market.

Asana’s reference price was revealed yesterday by the NYSE, and it was set for $21 a share. The company had roughly 150 million shares of stock outstanding on a fully diluted basis, which gave it a pre-market reference value of $3.2 billion. Palantir for its part was assigned a reference price of $7.25 a share, giving it a $16 billion implied valuation. At its current share price, Asana is valued at roughly $4.4 billion.

The two companies trade on the NYSE, with Asana under ticker ASAN and Palantir under the ticker PLTR.

For both companies, which are well capitalized, a direct listing seemed to be the right approach to give early employees and other insiders a liquidity option while continuing to maintain tight control of the ship. One difference between the two initiatives is that Asana has no lockup for employee and other insider shares as is typically customary with a direct listing. Palantir pioneered a lockup provision with a direct listing that will allow only roughly 29% of the company’s shares to be available potentially for trading today. The remainder of those shares become eligible for sale over the coming months.

As with all direct listings, no shares are offered by the company upon market debut, and the reference prices published by the NYSE are imaginary if important mental benchmarks for where bankers believe a hypothetical price lies for these two companies.

As my colleague Jon Shieber described a few weeks ago, Asana is an interesting entry into the markets as a long-time SaaS company stalwart that continues to lose buckets of revenue. Despite fast revenue growth of roughly 71%, the company lost $118.6 million on revenues of $142.6 million in fiscal 2020 (Asana has a Feb 1 fiscal year calendar, so those figures are for the bulk of 2019).

The company was last valued at $1.5 billion in late 2018. It secured a bit more than $200 million in venture financing since its founding in 2009, and its founders Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein hold large stakes in the company of roughly 36% and 16.1% respectively.

Over at Palantir, which we have covered extensively the past few weeks, the company is even more of an outlier, with large-contract government sales that accrue over many years. The company reported a total of 125 customers, losses of $580 million on revenues of $743 million last year, and projected revenues of just above $1 billion for 2020.

While Palantir’s reference price was below the final secondary trades held by the company in early September before it closed the window in the run up to its IPO, that price was well-above the average trading of the past 18 months.

For both companies now, the public markets beckon, and the first public quarterly results are coming due here in a few weeks. You can read more about Asana on the company’s investor relations page. Like so much else at Palantir, it doesn’t have an investor relations page (yet?) as of the time of writing this article, but presumably the company will want to connect with investors at some point in the near future, one would hope.

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